When INTIMATE STRANGER first debuted at the New York Film Festival in 1991, Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Berliner’s arrival [is] worth heralding, since his is the kind of fresh, inventive talent on which any film festival would thrive.” Since then, Berliner has gone on to dazzle audiences with his witty autobiographical exploration in films such as NOBODY’S BUSINESS; THE SWEETEST SOUND; and WIDE AWAKE. Back in 2006, he made a memorable STF appearance, screening one of his short works for THE BEST OF THE ORPHAN FILM SYMPOSIUM. Now he returns to show this breakthrough work (still unavailable on DVD). The description from his web site alanberliner.com.
You’ve probably never heard of Joseph Cassuto, but by the end of this film you may think that he was the most elusive, fascinating and baffling man to have ever lived. Cassuto is filmmaker Alan Berliner’s maternal grandfather, a Palestinian Jew who was a cotton buyer for the Japanese in Egypt prior to World War II. With Hitler’s armies just miles away from Alexandria, Cassuto’s family is split in half. They reunite in New York after the war, but Cassuto is restless there. He moves to Japan to spend eleven months of the year, virtually abandoning his wife and children in the U.S. while he pursues his business interests and a life-long love affair with Japanese culture. Seventeen years after his death, his grandson has constructed a poetic and emotional jigsaw puzzle out of the voluminous memorabilia of his grandfather’s life story. What emerges is a curious legacy — admiration and love from Cassuto’s Japanese business associates; resentment from his family. Depending on who you ask, Cassuto was either a romantic adventurer or a shirker of family responsibility; a man at the center of historic events or a nobody.